Coming off a 13-12-1 campaign in 2006 that saw the Bulldogs play Cape Girardeau Notre Dame for the district championship for the third consecutive year, Sikeston blossomed during the later stages of the season by winning eight of its last nine matches.
The Bulldogs were looking to defend their position as district champions for the third straight season in 2006, but eventual Class 2 state champion Notre Dame ended the chance of a Sikeston three-peat.
"We are not rebuilding," Sikeston head coach Derrick Long said. "Our biggest weakness may be that we have some younger players who have limited varsity experience. That's a mountain that we will have to overcome. But, I expect those players to work hard and learn how to play together so that we will gel by the end of the year."
Long is confident in the ability of senior forward Justin Deere, freshman midfielder Evan Underwood and freshman defender Daniel Sanders, who he expects to contribute immediately.
But the questions begin with Bulldogs' ability to generate offense. In 2006, Blake Taylor tied the Sikeston school record which he shares with Adam Garrett by scoring 30 times in a season. Alone, he accounted for nearly 60 percent of the SHS offense and was honored with a first team All-State selection.
Taylor, who holds five more school records -- career goals with 96, career points with 250, career assists with 58, season points with 80 and goals in a match with six -- for the Bulldogs, has moved on to play soccer at East Carter Junior College in Union.
Chris Carnell, who reached double figures in goals last season, added 10 tallies. He has also graduated, along with another key contributor for Sikeston -- defender Adam Gillean.
But the Bulldogs are not generally worried because there are five returning starters from which to build around. Last season, senior Scott Droddy was an All-State pick at goalie. In front of him are a pair of defenders -- senior Hunter Dillender and junior Dakota Trevino -- who have spent many matches working together. At midfield, sophomore Cody Anderson became a varsity starter as a freshman. And, at forward, sophomore Jordan Davis, did the same.
"This team has a good young core that could gel by midseason," Long said. "We had some younger players who logged a few minutes at the varsity level last season. But with 11 players on the field and five of them returning, it means we'll have six players who have never started before. Depending on how practice goes, we could have as many as two-to-four freshmen who will have on-the-job training."
Long assessed speed as one of Sikeston's strengths.
"I would like to use a counter attack that allows us to push the ball up field with our speed," Long said. "Even if we make a few bad passes or other mistakes, we might be able to recover by beating our opponents to the ball."
After practicing for the last three weeks in the hot August sun, Long said his players are ready to kickoff the season. Sikeston opens the 2007 campaign at 5 p.m. Monday, when it hosts Hillsboro at the Sikeston Sports Complex.
With Notre Dame returning some talent from its 2006 Class 2 state championship team and Farmington, which seemingly gives the Bulldogs a battle every time, Long said the district title could be decided by the Cape Girardeau-based private school Bulldogs, the Knights and Sikeston.
Aug. 27 -- vs. Hillsboro, 5 p.m.
Aug. 30 -- at Notre Dame Tournament, TBA
Aug. 31 -- at Notre Dame Tournament, TBA
Sept. 1 -- at Notre Dame Tournament, TBA
Sept. 4 -- at Marion, 4 p.m.
Sept. 5 -- vs. Kennett, 5 p.m.
Sept. 6 -- at Notre Dame, 5:30 p.m.
Sept. 11 -- vs. Cape Central, 5 p.m.
Sept. 15 -- at Murray Ky. Tournament, TBA
Sept. 18 -- at Poplar Bluff, 5:30 p.m.
Sept. 19 -- at DeSoto, 5 p.m.
Sept. 24 -- vs. Farmington, 5 p.m.
Sept. 25 -- vs. Jackson, 5 p.m.
Sept. 27 -- vs. Marion, 5 p.m.
Oct. 1 -- vs. Fredricktown, 5 p.m.
Oct. 2 -- vs. Notre Dame, 5 p.m.
Oct. 3 -- at Cape Central, 5:30 p.m.
Oct. 6 -- vs. West Plains, Noon
Oct. 8 -- at Fredricktown, 5 p.m.
Oct. 9 -- at Jackson, 5:30 p.m.
Oct. 11 -- at Kennett, 5 p.m.
Oct. 22 -- vs. Poplar Bluff, 5 p.m.
Oct. 27-Nov. 1 -- District Tournament, TBA
Nov. 6 -- State Quarterfinals, TBA
Nov. 9 -- State Semifinals, TBA
Nov. 10 -- State Finals, TBA